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[Video] Meet Lisha, Cambodia’s Badass Female Rapper

While Suboi is making headlines around the world as Vietnam’s “Queen of Hip-Hop”, Cambodia has a badass female rapper of its own representing our neighbor to the west.

In a recent article on Jezebel blog The Muse, writer Glynn Pogue profiles 36-year-old Jessica “Lisha” Srin, a Cambodian rapper who upends the prim-and-proper traditional stereotypes of Khmer women.

Lisha first discovered hip-hop in the late 1990s by way of Cambodian-born refugee DJ Sope, who returned to his homeland from California, bringing with him the sounds of American hip-hop and becoming the self-described Cambodian P. Diddy.

“When I first heard hip-hop, I was like, 'Whoa, this isn’t that typical, boring pop. This is real freedom of speech,'” Lisha told The Muse.

Much like Vietnamese hip-hop's first artists – think Khanh Nho and Thai Viet G – Cambodian refugees on the American west coast picked up the sounds of American hip-hop and added their own spin.

By Pogue’s description, contemporary Khmer pop is characterized by the same sugary sweet love ballads as its Vietnamese counterpart. But when DJ Sope returned to Phnom Penh in the early 1990s, he began playing the likes of Afrika Bambaataa and Run DMC for listeners who had never heard such music.

From the time she started listening to hip-hop, Lisha identified with the genre’s storytelling.

“My life was like a rap song, you know? I’m from the ghetto. I’ve only seen my father three times. My mom, my little sister and me, we were just surviving,” she told The Muse.

Today, Lisha is part of a musical collective called KlapYaHandz, which counts singers, rappers, artists and producers among its members. The group’s goal is to elevate Cambodian arts and culture, history and people through contemporary music, mainly hip-hop and R&B.

Have a listen to some of Lisha’s music below:

Video via YouTube user KlapYaHandz.

[Illustration by Angelica Alzona via The Muse

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